There are a lot of great things to watch in the October night sky, including Sirius, the brightest star, two meteor showers, planetary lineups, a full Moon, and more! Autumn mornings are also a good time of year to spot the Zodiacal Light, or “False Dawn.”
All events are Eastern Daylight Time and as seen from the Northern Hemisphere:
October 2—The first of two Last Quarter Moon phases this month! 5:45 a.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, on its way to the New Moon (invisible) phase.
October 5—The waning crescent Moon is at perigee, meaning it’s at its closest point to Earth in its orbit.
October 7 & 8 — The annual Draconid meteor shower, also sometimes called the Giacobinids, will peak. Usually a moderate meteor shower originating near the constellation Draco, the Draconid meteors are created by dust left behind by the periodic comet Giacobini-Zinner. Watch for the Draconid meteors first thing at nightfall. Luckily the sky will be dark and moonless as this is the time of the New Moon.
October 8—New Moon, 11:47 p.m. At this stage, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.
October 11—Look to the southwest, 1 hour after sunset, to see the very slim waxing crescent Moon and Jupiter form a “wink” in the sky.
October 14 — As darkness falls, look for Saturn next to the waxing crescent Moon in the southwest evening sky.
October 16—First Quarter Moon, 2:02 p.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is waxing (increasing), heading toward the full Moon.
October 17— The waxing gibbous Moon is at apogee at 3:14 p.m., meaning its farthest point from Earth during the lunar month. An easy way to remember: (A)pogee = (A)way.
October 18 – Look to the southeast starting at dusk to see the waxing gibbous Moon next to the “Red Planet” Mars.
October 21 & 22 — The Orionid Meteor shower peaks! This shower is the cosmic dust from the most famous comet, Halley’s Comet. The meteors appear to emanate from a point near the Orion-Gemini border in Orion’s upraised club, hence the name. View overhead from 1 to 2 a.m. local daylight time until dawn; you may see 20-25 meteors per hour. This year’s Orionid meteor shower almost coincides with the full Moon on October 24th. Nevertheless, the early stages of the display can be watched in a dark sky for several mornings after the middle of the month. Even when peak activity is expected, there will be nearly two hours or so between moonset and the first glimmer of dawn when an observer might count 15 or 20 Orionids per hour.
October 24— The Hunter’s Moon will be astronomically full at 12:45 p.m. In this phase, the entire disc of the Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered “full” for the entire day of the event and appears full for three days so you can get out and enjoy it! Learn more about how this Moon got its name in our short video:
October 29 – Well off to the south at around 9 p.m. local daylight time this week, below and to the right of the large constellation of Cetus, the Whale, are two constellations which seem to literally hug the southern horizon: Grus, the Crane and Phoenix, the mythical up-from-the-ashes bird.
October 31—The second of two Last Quarter Moon phases this month, at 12:40 p.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, on its way to the New Moon (invisible) phase.
October 31—The Last Quarter Moon is at perigee (twice in one month!) at 4:22 p.m., meaning it’s at its closest point to Earth in its orbit. The reason we’re seeing the second Moon at perigee is that the lunar calendar is 29.5 days long, which is shorter than our Gregorian calendar.